Penalty or Bonus?

Progress to date: 25 days, 1,077 miles

We stand alongside a country road in the middle of nowhere. I'm taking off a layer of clothes, now that it has warmed up a little.

“We're on penalty miles now,” Rich comments. Huh? By car, it is only 33 miles from Baldwin to Ludington, he explains. Our route by bike has already exceeded that. It would be 44 miles before we arrive in Ludington. “Not penalty miles,” I retort. “These are bonus miles!” Such is the difference in our personal perspectives.

Rich roadside

Cycling across the lower peninsula, we no longer have a natural route following the coastline. Our main priority is to avoid big highways. Finding local roads that are bicycle friendly and still reasonably direct is not always as simple as it seams. I have become a great fan of Michigan's Road and Trail Bicycling Guide maps. With separate maps for each major section of the state, they are highly detailed and coded to show the amount of traffic and shoulder conditions on recommended roads. They have become my constant, well worn companion in the clear pocket in front of me. Rich, on the other hand, is a great fan of Google Maps. It suggests bicycle routes as well. Both have their follies, but between the two we are able to find reasonable routes. Usually.

Michigan cycling maps

We had great help in the middle of our traverse by using the Pere Marquette State Trail. The paved sections were marvelous, and although skeptical at first, we found the crushed limestone portion to be very passable. In all we covered 56 miles using that trail.

Rich on the unpaved trail

On either end, we chose local roads as best we could. Today's ride was engineered to avoid highway 10 and find breakfast in the middle. It meant traveling first well below the highway, crossing that busy road to reach a friendly little diner, then detouring north to find the closest paved road to continue west to Ludington. Taking a few unknown roads meant assuming some risk. And there were times when we guessed wrong and ran out of pavement. But that wasn't always bad. We passed through some pretty forested area on a fairly smooth dirt road.

Dirt road

While we haven't had coastal views while traveling across the state, there has been some nice pastoral scenery. And other compensating attractions. The sun even came out yesterday morning, much to our delight.

Nice scenery
Ice cream stop

I don't mind traveling the extra miles for quiet roads, nice scenery and sightseeing opportunities. For any reason, really. Rich is usually more interested in taking the most efficient yet practical routes. One way or another we manage to find a compromise, somewhere between penalty and bonus.


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